Sydney-based entrepreneur Martin Martinez, who founded and grew the Australian Poker League to $50 million a year revenue in three years before selling it to WIN in 2009, has launched a new venture.
Entrepreneur Card, based on the successful American Founders Club card, is a type of rewards program (the company describes itself as a ‘privileges program’) that aims to help entrepreneurs and small business owners secure the same preferential rates that travel, dining and accommodation providers offer to corporate clients.
It’s being fully funded by Martinez, who says he doesn’t think it’s fair that business owners miss out on deals and special offers because their businesses don’t have the scale to demand corporate discounts.
While the program began accepting applications, it only had a soft launch three weeks ago with no marketing. Martinez reveals to SmartCompany it’s already received hundreds of applications, which will be carefully vetted before the program formally begins next year.
The program will charge a $125 joining fee, and $495 per annum every year after. In exchange for this, entrepreneurs will have access to discounts ranging from 10% to 50% with Australia’s leading entertainment and travel providers. Entrepreneur Card will make its money from these fees, rather than on commission from its partners, which Martinez says allows the corporations to offer larger discounts to the Entrepreneur Card holders.
He says he’s had huge interest from the companies he’s approached to be involved.
“I thought the biggest hurdle would be signing up the partners,” he tells SmartCompany. “It’s a foreign model that hasn’t really been seen in Australia before. And these companies get approached all the time.
“But I’ve been very surprised. I’ve had two companies say no. All the other have come on board. They want our target market, which are big spenders, and aren’t really serviced the same way many other sectors are.”
Martinez is a member of FoundersCard, which operates in America. He approached its founder Eric Khun to offer to bring the model here earlier this year, but says they were really focused on the American market and had no plans to expand. So he decided to do it on his own.
“In three years, FoundersCard has grown to 10,000 members with zero marketing,” he says. “It’s a fantastic model, and the sort of thing I could definitely see myself having used when I ran the Australian Poker League. We feel that with a bit of effort, this could be quite successful.
“For the past three weeks, we haven’t done marketing yet or revealed our partners, and we’re receiving hundreds of applications. That tells me there’s a genuine interest in this.”
In addition to securing the deals, the program will also offer a concierge service to plan entertainment for its members, and will offer networking events.
Access to these events will be carefully vetted, Martinez says.
“When I go to conferences and meet-ups, there’s always someone trying to sell me something. There’s a time and place for that, but it makes everyone a bit uncomfortable when they just want to hang out. So that’s what we’re going to offer – events by invitation only, where you can be sure you’ll meet other entrepreneurs and business owners without being pitched. It’s not about arrogance – it is about creating the space where our members can just enjoy themselves.”
The core business though will be the discount model, which Martinez describes as “flipping the daily deal model on its head”.
“We don’t ask our partners to bastardise their revenue. We tell them to offer something attractive but commercially viable for our members, and to keep offering it. And because they don’t have to pay us, they have a bit more of a margin to go towards that.”
Entrepreneurs Card is accepting applications of interest, and will formally launch in March.